Saturday, November 11, 2017

Navajo Art And Whiteness

We're on vacation in Sedona this weekend, mostly to view the magnificent Arizona scenery and shop the artists' colonies here. Yesterday, we stopped at an art fair and wandered the booths, chatting with people and dropping some coin for lovely pieces of jewelry, pottery and clothing.

First off, everyone was friendly. We all had a good time discussing the creations, where we were from, other places we visited and so forth. One booth was run by a guy from Chicago who had gone to the same high school as my wife, just 5 years ahead of her. The only tension was whether or not we were going to spring for a gorgeous, Navajo/Zuni necklace, this one sold by the Navajo artist. It was $650 and in the end, my wife decided against it. The two of them had a great conversation as my wife makes jewelry as well.

Yesterday morning, while drinking my coffee and surfing the web while my wife slept, I came across definitions of whiteness. There's a story behind the search, perhaps something for a future post. Here's a decent source and below is a descriptive tidbit.
(Whiteness is) a dominant cultural space with enormous political significance, with the purpose to keep others on the margin....white people are not required to explain to others how ‘white' culture works, because ‘white' culture is the dominant culture that sets the norms. Everybody else is then compared to that norm....In times of perceived threat, the normative group may well attempt to reassert its normativity by asserting elements of its cultural practice more explicitly and exclusively.
Translated: Whiteness is the aggregate culture created through competition. Whiteness is whatever is winning at the moment.

With that in mind, I looked through the art fair. The booths were pop-up tents made in England. Their legs were aluminum, probably from Caribbean bauxite mines. The jeans the people wore were probably made in Southeast Asia. The cars they drove were Japanese or built using Japanese methods as the American auto makers got schooled in the 1970s by the Japanese. The oil and gasoline that lubricated and fueled the cars likely came from Dixie - extracted in Texas and refined in Louisiana. We all spoke English, although some had distinct, Mexican accents.

That's what "whiteness" is. At least, that's what it is to me. As I don't watch movies or TV very much and my music consumption is almost all Christian Contemporary, I can't say what it is for everyone else, but to me, the culture is what I drive, where I shop, what I wear and what I cook. For the life of me, I can't figure out why I should be wound up about this.

Everyone was having a good time and the artists were making money so they could go back to their studios and do what turned them on - create more art. None of the progressive-Nazi screaming made any sense at all as we shopped at the art fair.

Sometimes, I think our universities are actually mental institutions.

Navajo/Zuni art, Cambodian blue jeans, British tents, Caribbean bauxite, Japanese cars and petroleum products from Dixie. Cultural appropriation at its worst. A sickening display of whiteness.


Ohioan@Heart said...

Gee, when I think of Navajo Art, I don’t think about Whiteness. I think about silver and turquoise. I suppose such a horrible stereotype thought makes me racist...

K T Cat said...

I believe it's okay to think about the raw materials. As near as I can figure, you're even allowed to buy it. You just can't wear it. That would be cultural appropriation.

Foxfier said...

I read that definition a bit differently-- that "whiteness" means you don't have anything special.
And if you have been declared to be "white," you're not allowed anything special-- even if it only looks like something else special because the other group acquired it from a now-defined-as-"white" group.

If I remember the word right... the "bourgeois" roughly fit that profile.